Martian dirt was too powdery for a NASA rover to scoop, spacesuit delays mean that NASA’s Artemis program goal of reaching the moon by 2024 is not feasible and the Japanese-European spacecraft BepiColombo flies past Venus while capturing amazing views. These are some of the top stories this week from Space.com.
Martian dirt was too powdery for Perseverance to collect.
NASA’s Perseverance rover made its first attempt to collect a Martian dirt sample on Aug. 6. However, Perseverance’s team found that the sample tubes were actually empty the morning after the collection maneuver. The team concluded that this particular patch of Mars had dirt that was too powdery to be successfully collected.
Spacesuit delay means 2024 lunar landing is not an option.
A lunar landing in the year 2024 is not feasible, according to a new report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). NASA’s Inspector General audited the space agency’s next-generation spacesuits that would be worn for the Artemis Program, and found that NASA faced significant challenges to get suits to be flight ready by November 2024. The report was released on Tuesday (Aug. 10).
Scientists fine-tune the miniscule odds that asteroid Bennu would hit Earth in 2300.
Scientists found that the chances of near-Earth asteroid Bennu striking our planet in the year 2300 are smaller than previously thought. NASA sent its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to Bennu, where it spent more than two years orbiting and sampling the rock. The observations have allowed scientists to fine-tune their earlier predictions, but don’t worry: the risk of impact was already very small, even before the update.
No new launch date for Starliner, nine out of 13 valves repaired.
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft couldn’t travel to the International Space Station this month because of valve issues. According to a company statement released on Thursday (Aug. 12), Boeing’s teams have repaired nine of the 13 problematic valves. The valves belonged to the spacecraft’s propulsion system and they were not opening as designed. Currently, Starliner has no new launch date for its Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) mission.
S.S. Ellison Onizuka reaches the International Space Station.
The Cygnus NG-16 spacecraft, also called the S.S. Ellison Onizuka, arrived at the International Space Station this week with the largest NASA cargo haul ever. The supply ship reached the space station on Thursday (Aug. 12) as it flew over the Atlantic Ocean near Portugal. It launched two days prior (Aug. 10) to deliver more than 8,200 lbs. (3,720 kilograms) of supplies. This Cygnus is named after the first Asian American astronaut, Ellison Onizuka, who tragically died in the Challenger disaster in 1986.
BepiColombo swung past Venus this week.
The BepiColombo spacecraft from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) captured incredible views of Venus as it flew past on Tuesday (Aug. 10) on its way to Mercury. The BepiColombo team created a new video, released on Thursday (Aug. 13), by combining 89 images taken by the spacecraft during its Venutian visit. This is BepiColombo’s second flyby of Venus.
Wildfires are breaking records, and satellites are watching.
The wildfires of 2021 are breaking records, and satellites are keeping track of their spread. Satellites from Europe’s Copernicus constellation and U.S. Earth observation company Maxar Technologies have been monitoring the wildfires so that scientists can collect data about their location and the carbon they are releasing into the atmosphere. The new records are sobering: the Dixie Fire in northern California is now the largest in the state’s history, and wildfires across the planet have already broken annual records for fire-related emissions of greenhouse gases.
SpaceX may launch a Canadian satellite that would air ads from space.
SpaceX plans to launch a satellite from Canadian startup Geometric Energy Corp. into space. According to Business Insider, the cubesat is an advertisement-beaming satellite that would eventually accept payments via the cryptocurrency Dogecoin. The mission was disclosed publicly in May, but the advertising part of the satellite’s role was not. SpaceX plans to launch the satellite in early 2022.
Indian rocket and satellite lost in launch failure.
An Earth-observing satellite for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was lost when the Indian rocket that launched it on Thursday (Aug. 12) suffered an anomaly. The failure happened sometime past the six-minute mark of the rocket’s flight. Thursday’s liftoff of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle was India’s first launch this year.
First female Arab astronaut gears up for more training.
Mechanical engineer Nora AlMatrooshi and helicopter pilot Mohammad AlMulla are the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) newest astronauts. Their training currently involves preliminary training activities in the UAE, like studying Russian and learning to dive. Their training will soon take them to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas for two years. When she eventually flies, AlMatrooshi will become the first female Arab astronaut.